‘Moana’ Blu-ray Review: A Heartwarming Disney Tale With A Spectacular Soundtrack
Moana, Disney’s latest feature film, is a genuine picture replete with lovable characters, colorful visuals, great humor and above all, a superb soundtrack.
The film tells the story of Moana (voiced by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho), a curious and adventurous teenage girl living on a small Polynesian island named Motunui. She is eventually proclaimed leader of her people— as heir of her father, the island’s chief— and discovers a precious stone that is the mystical heart of the island goddess Te Fiti. According to an old legend, that stone was stolen thousands of years prior by a shapeshifting demigod named Maui, who lost his magical fish-hook that gave him his powers in the process.
Despite her stern father’s insistence that she never go beyond the reef because of the perils that lie beyond the ocean, Moana disobeys— much like dozens of other Disney protagonists who rebel against their overprotective parents— decides to set sail after her grandmother Tala, who tells her as she is dying, that she must go on this quest to restore the heart of Te Fiti. The bold youngster thus embarks on her journey to save her people with nothing but dreams and a dimwitted pet rooster named Hei-hei, whom even co-director Ron Clements described as “the dumbest character in the history of Disney animation.”
After a storm shipwrecks her on another island, Moana crosses paths with Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), whom she is determined to get help from in her mission. However, the self-centered, narcissistic demigod patronizes Moana on their voyage, which includes an attempt to retrieve Maui’s fish-hook from a coconut crab named Tamatoa (voiced by Jemaine Clement, of Flight of the Conchords).
Though the story may become slightly complex for young children to understand at times, the film is nonetheless filled with funny phrases and moments, (Maui’s line “When you use a bird to write, that’s called tweeting” was one of my favorites) interesting characters, and a beautifully vivid depiction of the Polynesian islands and the Pacific Ocean, among other settings and characters like the shiny Tamatoa and the lava monster who serves as the main villain. Not since perhaps The Little Mermaid has there been an animated Disney film where water was so colorfully and powerfully portrayed.
One of the most outstanding components of the film, however, is the music. The movie’s original songs, including the Oscar-nominated tune “How Far I’ll Go,” were written by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda— who also sings and raps in two versions of two songs— and Opetaia Foa’i, a member of the New Zealand-based Pacific/Oceanic music group Te Vaka. Not only are the songs incredibly catchy and well-written, but they are also very different from one another in style.
It is also refreshing to see a Disney film where the princess/heroine is a warrior of sorts, and not a damsel in distress waiting to be rescued. The lack of a love interest makes the story unique in that sense.
Watch the trailer below: